Numerous EA organizations use a “multiplier” model in which they try to leverage each dollar they spend on their own operations by fundraising multiple dollars for other effective charities. My strong impression is that the number of donors who give to effective charities doing direct work is much larger than the number of donors who give to organizations that fundraise for effective charities doing direct work. I would like to understand why this is the case.
Below, I’ve listed some of the most common objections to the multiplier model I’ve heard in the EA community, and in my own experience pitching The Life You Can Save (where I work) and other multiplier organizations. I’ve put each of these objections as its own comment, please upvote if it applies to you. If you have a substantively different objection to the multiplier model, please add your own comment.
- I don’t believe the multipliers that fundraising organizations report (e.g. because they don’t appropriately adjust for money that would have been donated counterfactually, rely on aggressive assumptions, or ignore the opportunity cost of having people working at the multiplier organization)
- I feel an emotional “warm glow” when I give to charities that do direct work, but not when I give to multiplier organizations
- Multiplier organizations typically raise funds for a lot of different charities, and I only care about money that’s raised for the charity with the highest absolute impact
- There aren’t multiplier organizations available in the cause areas I care about
- I think multiplier organizations are significantly riskier than organizations doing direct work
- I think multiplier organizations have provided leverage in the past, but think that going forward the marginal multiplier will be lower than the average multiplier
- I’m generally skeptical of the multiplier model because it seems too good to be true